What I Loved in Video Games This Year

Today Population GO posted “Best of 2012” articles from the gaming contributors. As if anyone had any doubt, I rave about Mass Effect 3 being the best game of the year for me. You can read my post here, or check out Ed and Johan’s picks (Halo 4 and Fez, respectively) on the Pop GO site.

It’s hard to choose a game of the year. Every game brings something a little different, so rather than list my favorite games on the whole, here’s a little round-up of what I loved in 2012’s video games. It’s my way of honoring each of these games for what it gets right.

Best Mechanics: Dishonored’s Supernatural Powers

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Dishonored has some of the most fun game mechanics of any video game I’ve played this year, specifically because they were so new to me. I’m not talking about the stealth in this game, which frankly wore out my patience at times… I’m talking about the supernatural powers, such as being able to bodily inhabit a rat to escape through sewers or instantly vanish from one location to appear at another spot nearby.

Only in Dishonored can you slow time as a bullet nears you, possess the guard who fired the gun at you, and move him in front of his own bullet so it hits him instead. And when you’re about to crash-land to your death from a high building, Blink lets you maneuver to a safe spot mid-fall. Whenever the stealth approach became tedious for me, I managed to think of some new way to entertain myself with Dishonored’s incredible mechanics.

Best Setting: Far Cry 3’s Rook Islands

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I’m cheating on this one, because I’ve barely scratched the surface of Far Cry 3. But already the setting has sucked me in, with its intoxicating jungle environment that seems ready to kill our protagonist at every turn. When I’m not fighting the beasts here, it’s wonderful to take a breather in the lush green landscape that’s ripe for exploration. And as someone who adores alchemy in games, I love being able to pick plants and craft things like syringes from the natural ingredients… and from the parts and skins from animals I’ve tangled with, of course. The crafting is even more reason for me to love this beautiful, terrifying island.

Favorite Scene: Shooting Bottles with Garrus in Mass Effect 3

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Let’s be honest: few characters in video game history are as well-loved as Garrus from the Mass Effect series. I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who’s played the games who actively dislikes that guy. In ME3 this year, I had a blast when Garrus and Shepard decided to blow off some steam by shooting bottles at the top of the Presidium — an unexpected breather and a great bit of characterization. It’s one of the most quotable scenes in the game, and depending on how you play it, it can be one of the series’ most touching moments, too.

Best Teamwork: Traveling with a Stranger in Journey

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I almost never play co-op, and I rarely pick up multiplayer, but I’ve been blown away by just how moving it can be to play with another person in the game Journey. When you’re online, you may encounter just one other player at a time in the rendered landscape, and together, the two of you can explore to the end if you wish. You can’t speak to the other player — though you can harmonize with him by pressing a button to make a noise in-game — but the bond you create with your co-op partner is all the more poignant for being unspoken.

Newcomers have red cloaks, but once you’ve played Journey enough to find all of the Scarf upgrades and earn the Transcendence trophy, you wear a white robe. This is an indication that you are an experienced player, and encountering a Red Cloak gives you an opportunity to show the newcomer around the landscape. This type of teamwork is a magical experience, and it’s created a culture of gamers who help each other through the game, exploring the quiet environment, ushering each other to new locations, and sometimes standing still at the end, not yet wanting to say good bye to their fellow traveler after such a breathtaking adventure together.

— Ashley

10 thoughts on “What I Loved in Video Games This Year”

  1. I agree: excellent choices :) I was actually just wondering what Mass Effect 4 will be and when it’ll come out. The Mass Effect franchise has been such a big deal in gaming for me that the thought of a “franchise hiatus” until it comes out is almost depressing; I might have to start the trilogy up again because I’m going to miss those characters. And yeah, keep pushing through Far Cry 3, but do take your time: I best it and got all the achievements and kind of wished I’d paced myself now :S

    1. Thanks! Far Cry 3 is a lot of fun, so it can be a bit of a time suck but I am trying to take it slow and savor it! As for Mass Effect, it’s funny you mention starting the trilogy over as I’m doing that now! My Xbox died on me recently, so I’m working my way through them on PC for the first time. It’s kind of like “going home” to be playing them again, enjoying all the old characters and scenarios. =)

  2. I keep hearing plenty of good things about Far Cry and Dishonored. I may need to pick these titles up at some point. I agree with your pick for Mass Effect 3 as your favorite scene. I really loved the moment between Shepard and Garrus. It was beautifully written in the game and it’s in keeping with what you would expect from Garrus. It was a lighthearted moment we needed in the game and it’s a culmination of a great friendship throughout 3 games (or romance for those who have gone that path with him).

    As a side note, I enjoyed your article on Pop GO for your 2012 pick being Mass Effect 3. Putting aside the obvious disappointments with the game, it’s still one of my favorites to play. I enjoy coming back to the game after they release a DLC. I can’t wait to play their final single player DLC for Mass Effect 3 in the new year! :)

    1. I’m glad you liked that ME3 scene too! A lot of the Citadel “dates” were fun, and I agree that we needed those lighthearted moments… I liked meeting Joker, EDI, and Kaidan on the Citadel as well. I’m replaying all the Mass Effect games now and am hoping to fit in the DLCs more naturally this time (instead of waiting til the end of ME3 to play some of the DLCs, etc).

  3. I LOVE the character Garrus in the Mass Effect series. He’s the perfect counterpart/sidekick to Shepard, and I loved that he was there throughout the entire series. I remember starting this series shortly after playing through Dragon Age 1 & 2 and I was so skeptical as to whether or not I would like it as much. So happy I did because now it’s on of my favorites.

    1. I also played the Dragon Age games first, which led me to Mass Effect! DA: Origins was my favorite game but I got to Mass Effect 2, and then the whole ME world opened up to me and I got really into it. I think the main thing Mass Effect has over Dragon Age games is the continuity of playing the same character and having the same squad mates game after game. Like you said, it’s cool to have a character like Garrus with you for three games in a row.

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